Feature Article - July 2007
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Special Supplement: Complete Guide to Sports & Recreation Surfaces

By Dana Carman

To avoid paying for a bad sub-base, get to know your asphalt or concrete vendor. Driveway or parking lot pavers are not necessarily going to know the best ways to pour asphalt or concrete for a tennis court. Use vendors who have come recommended by people in the business and who have worked on other successful tennis court implementations.

When cracks in the surface occur as a result of a sub-base problem, the fix isn't as easy as simply resurfacing the court. As Murray said, "Once courts crack, there are crack band-aids, which are to fill in the crack from the top down and resurface the court. However, if the crack is the result of an issue underneath the surface, there is no way to put a band-aid on it. You have to do surgery." And as we all know, surgery is never inexpensive.

Water is also an issue that can affect your sub-base. Proper drainage is key to keeping your tennis court in good shape, both on the surface and underneath. If water isn't properly run off and away, the soil under the sub-base can shift and cause movement, which will result in cracking. DiNatale said that a layer of well-compacted crushed stone underneath the asphalt can assist with drainage, especially in an area where water freezing under the base can become an issue.

Choosing the right site can make a big difference in the life of your court. It may be part of a drainage solution (or, if you're not careful, the problem), but site choice is also important because what's around your court can affect the life of it. For example, beautiful trees that overhang and shade your court may look lovely, but looks can be deceiving. The leaves, seeds and branches that fall from the trees can stain the court while the roots make their way under the court and show up as cracks on the surface.

As with any construction project, education is essential to getting the surface right. This is where a design consultant and reputable builder come in handy. Many people may not realize the costs of properly building a tennis court, which is important when you're building the budget. Shortchanging the court can mean a lot more dollars in maintenance only a short time later.

Consider what you hope to achieve with your courts. Will there be multiple courts? Are lights necessary? Is seating necessary? If so, are water fountains and bathrooms nearby a necessity? Are the courts at all shaded? If not, how can that be achieved successfully?

Properly outlining the court and its surroundings may take up a lot of initial time and expense, but it can save you both down the line.